Why don’t conservative Christians protest the use of legal mind-altering drugs?

November 3, 2007 | By | 6 Replies More

I spent some time over at Focus on the Family, a site that teaches God’s own version of morality, to see what they had to say about drug use.  As it turned out, the advice depended on whether the drug was illegal, as though God defers to the U.S. Congress to figure out what drugs are immoral.

Over and over, the Focus on the Family attitude is that you need to avoid “illicit” or “illegal” drugs.  On the other hand, barely a word is said about prescription drugs you can buy legally.  I checked out several other conservative Christian websites and I found the same attitude.  Legal = moral, whereas illegal = immoral.  There is no hint that mind-altering = immoral. 

This hypocritical attitude is described by Tim Wu in an article called “American Lawbreaking”: 

Over the last two decades, the pharmaceutical industry has developed a full set of substitutes for just about every illegal narcotic we have.

See also, a related article from this site.  It’s further interesting to note that most religions don’t prohibit alcohol or cigarette use.  God smiles at drugs that are taxed, apparently.

I can only assume, then, that God looks favorably on drugs that make corporations wealthy.  On the other hand, if you are a poor person living in the inner city, God won’t like it one bit if you self-medicate with home grown marijuana.  By the way, 829,627 people were arrested for possessing marijuana in 2006.

If artificial mind-altering is good (at least in moderation), it would seem that God wouldn’t care if you get the job done through a health-care bureacracy or whether you self-medicated with a safe street drug like marijuana.  If artificial mood-altering can sometimes be a good thing, why deprive the poor.  After all, Christians are under the directive to be kind to the poor.

If you are poor, you are much more likely to be subjected to stress and violence.  You are much more likely to face seemingly insurmountable financial pressures.  You are much more likely to be a witness (or a victim) of acts of violence than those well-to-do folks in the suburbs.   But those suburban folks have those healthy plans that provide psychologists to help them when they are stressed.  And those suburban folks can afford the factory-made mood-altering drugs.  God doesn’t seem to mind that suburban folks are artificially altering their moods. They have no duty to “repent” after partaking of Prozac, Ritalin, Vicodin, OxyContin, Wellbutrin or Clonazepam.  After all, they need these drugs and it is likely that some of the folks who attend those big suburban churches are highly paid employees of the pharmaceutical industry. 

Even though you (a poor inner city person) need stress relief much more than those people in the suburbs and even though you can’t afford the fancy drugs sold at drugstores, you’d better not grow a little patch of marijuana in the back yard or you’ll be thrown in the slammer.  And, apparently, even if you do your time in prison, God will eventually throw you into hell.

[This piece is not intended to advocate taking any drugs, prescription or illegal.  My working assumption is that being healthy minimizes the use of any sort of drug. My main point here is the rampant hypocrisy embedded in many forms of religious judgment (and the hypocrisy of the criminal “justice” system)].


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Category: law and order, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (6)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    This is a telling comment on the essentially political presence of Church in our State.

    But don't most Churches dun one for alcohol as strongly as for unlicensed mind-altering substances? Or is it only for the abuse of booze, as opposed to sacramental use? After all, Jesus himself livened up a party by turning (presumably un-potable) water into (supposedly sanctified) wine.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's an interesting twist to the "war on drugs" (which is really, as I suggest, essentially a class war):

    London, United Kingdom: Self-reported cannabis use among Britons has declined sharply in the three years following the government’s decision to downgrade pot possession to a non-arrestable offense, according to figures compiled last week by the Home Office’s annual Crime Survey.

    The Home Office statistics show that marijuana use by young people age 16 to 24 has fallen approximately 20 percent since 2004.


  3. xiaogou says:

    Actually, going to jail and taking illegal drugs does not mean that you will go to hell. And if one is consciously taking drugs for no medical reasons other than to get high and the person is aware of it then there is a chance that that person will go to hell.

    But I digress from the original question “Why don’t conservative Christians protest the use of legal mind-altering drugs?”

    1) They don’t know the difference.

    2) If they speak up they are labeled heretics and the others of the church often shove their noses in the scripture that states “Obey your leaders.”

    3) Yes, they may be employed by the pharmaceutical company; they may be a doctor or a psychiatrist.

    4) They are junkies and don’t want to admit it.

    5) If they speak up they fear they will be labeled a trouble maker, geek or too conservative by their junkie friends.

    There are many more reasons, but I can’t think of them all.

    There is one troubling fact that some of these conservative churches are worse than the Gestapo. They try to control their following by using thug leaders and they use the Bible as a weapon to keep people in line. They thumb through a Bible Concordance to pick out the scriptures to beat down dissidents. And if all else fails there is that pesky “Obey your leaders” passage. It is strange that they almost never point out the “Obey your spiritual leaders.” Spiritual in this case is opposite of worldly, power-hungry, materialistic, un-God, and un-Jesus like. If the church takes the stand that the authority of the government is wrong it opens the door that the authority of the Church can be questioned as well.

  4. Ben says:

    "the person is aware of it then there is a chance that that person will go to hell"

    Okay Mr. X, so are there drugs allowed in hell? Or is hell drug-free? Or is it just that really crappy homegrown left over from your cousin's stash?

    What about in Heaven… surely there is chronic weed in heaven? I mean just look at the Devil's eyes… so bloodshot…

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Sometime in the 1990s, the concept of better living through chemistry turned a corner, thanks to drug companies' efforts to synthesize antidotes for every possible mood swing. So writes Yale lecturer Charles Barber in his new book, Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation. An OCD sufferer himself, Barber spent a decade working in places like New York City's Bellevue Hospital. He knew something was wrong when he discovered that his colleagues' perfectly functional, $300-an-hour Upper West Side clients were taking the same potent pills as his own schizoid, homeless, crackhead patients. "I would spend part of the day in shelters dealing with seriously ill people," Barber says. "Then I'd go to cocktail parties and find out that the people there were on the same medications." He proposes that we just say no to multinational drug peddlers and heal ourselves with cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies — "talk therapy" techniques that minimize pill pushing, dispense with Freudian dream analysis, and engage patients in actively reprogramming their own brains. It's like "a highly selective carpentry of the soul," Barber writes — therapy as self-engineering.

    From Wired: http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magaz

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